Connie Venskus of Rumford is preparing for her seventh Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk this month.
RUMFORD — Connie Venskus of Rumford has been stepping up her training in preparation for her seventh Dana-Farber Jimmy Fund Boston Marathon Walk on Sunday, Sept. 24.
The 70-year-old has been training all summer for the 26.2-mile walk, which is on the route of the Boston Marathon.
“I am pretty proud but also feel blessed that I am able to accomplish this at my age,” Venskus said. “I know that I am far from being an Olympian, but it is still fun and satisfying to do this. It’s the closest I come to being an athlete.
“I lost two really good friends to cancer around 2011, within a week of each other,” Venskus said. “I kind of walk in memory of them. It is a wonderful cause and I would not ever do this kind of walking if I didn’t have a reason for doing it. This is what I do in the summertime.”
To participate in the fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund, she must raise a minimum of $300.
To assist her, people can go to jimmyfundwalk.org, click on “find a walker,” and type in “Venskus.” From there, they will be able to make a donation.
“I would like to thank my family for helping me with the walk and I also am grateful to all who have supported this worthy cause,” Venskus said.
She raised $914.80 in 2016 to help fight cancer, bringing her six-year fundraising total to $4,288.40.
Starting in June, she began walking about three miles. Lately, she has been walking an eight-mile loop from her home in the Virginia section of Rumford, over the bridge toward South Rumford Road, over Wyman Hill Road, out on Route 108 up to the union hall and back.
As the event gets closer, she’ll walk 20 miles — twice.
“I know all the measurements of where I can go to get certain mileages,” she said.
Venskus will visit her sons, Ian and Aaron, of Wellesley, Massachusetts, and be a part of the team from Ian’s ad agency, Partners and Simons in Boston.
The idea for the marathon walk came from Ian, whose friend asked him to be on a team. He said invited his mother to join them.
“People think I’m crazy when I tell them I do it, but I don’t care,” she said. “It’s a good feeling to get it done, and to be honest, I do hurt when I’m done. I always feel really good through the summer because I know I’m doing some good exercise —and at my age, that’s always a good thing.”
She’s challenged herself to complete the marathon in under eight hours.
The walk ends at Copley Square, where walkers will receive a commemorative Jimmy Fund Walk medal, and enjoy food, music and a speaking program.
“It’s really fun,” Venskus said. “They have music, balloons, people clapping and cheering you on.”
Refueling stations with food, water and medical support are accessible every two miles.
“I used to stop at all of them,” she said. “Then I asked, ‘Why am I stopping at all these when I’m walking eight miles to a time at home?’ I don’t need to do that,” she said.
Reliving the 2016 walk
“My son, Aaron, a new dad, unselfishly awoke early enough to drive me from Boston to the start in Hopkinton,” Venskus said. “When I began my walk at 5:20, it was still dark and I walked under a starlit sky with a crescent moon overhead.
“For the first time in six years, I had actually slept the night before and I had a lot of energy. As one of my friends texted me during the walk, God blessed us with a gorgeous crisp fall day, and for most of the morning, it all seemed almost effortless.
“By Mile 22, however, I was beginning to struggle and seeing my husband and two sons at Cleveland Circle gave me a much-needed boost.
“As he does every year, my son, Ian, walked the last four miles with me. He definitely paced me and got me to pass the slower walkers who filtered in from the shorter walk starts. He would not tell me what time it was and when I came to the finish, I was surprised to have finished in seven hours and 31 minutes — 27 minutes faster than last year.
“I think this was the most emotional end for me because I had bested my time by so much,” Venskus said.
According to the event website, the 2016 walk had more than 9,400 participants and 1,000 volunteers who raised more than $8.7 million for patient care and innovative cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The event has raised nearly $120 million for Dana-Farber’s fight against cancer since 1989.